We are very pleased to announce the results of the seventh edition of the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service, sponsored by Baker & Taylor’s Bibliostat. The LJ Index is a measurement tool that compares U.S. public libraries with their spending peers based on four types of output measures of their per capita use. For this year’s Star Libraries, please click on “The Star Libraries” above; for more on what’s next for the index, see “What’s Next for the LJ Index”.
When the LJ Index and its Star Library ratings were introduced in 2008, our hope was that whether libraries were awarded stars or not, they would examine these statistics more closely—both for their own library and for their peers—and make fuller use of these and other types of data for local planning and evaluation purposes.
In the meantime, however, another type of data has come to the fore—outcomes. The conventional wisdom in the public library community today is that output data alone is insufficient to assess the performance of public libraries. The new big question is: What difference do libraries make in the lives of their users and communities? Yet, for many, the distinction between an output and an outcome has remained elusive and often confusing. Fortunately, over the past year or two, several major projects have begun or reached a level of maturity that provide public library administrators and stakeholders with some carefully crafted and broadly tested tools for making sense of output and outcome data.
Here we will explore what some of this year’s Star Libraries are doing with outcome measures, chiefly through their involvement with up-and-running projects such as the Edge Initiative and the Impact Survey, as well as developing efforts—for example, the work of the Public Library Association (PLA) Performance Measures Task Force. Comments were solicited from directors and other representatives of Star Libraries about how their experiences with outcome measurement affect their views about where public libraries need to go with output measurement.